The Italian Almanac

an image from The Golden Door

Italian Movies - October 3

An epic tale about Italian emigration at the start of the 20th century was chosen as Italy's entry for the best foreign film Oscar on Monday. Nuovomondo (The Golden Door), written and directed by acclaimed young director Emanuele Crialese, will compete to be on the final five-strong shortlist to be unveiled on January 23.

The film focuses on a Sicilian family who make the journey from their homeland to America in search of a better life. It recounts the family's voyage and their eventual arrival at the Golden Door, namely the immigrant processing centre on New York's Ellis Island.

The visually stunning movie, which cost $11 million to make, couples French star Charlotte Gainsbourg with little-known Sicilian actor Vincenzo Amato. Crialese, 41, penned the story after several visits to the centre - now a museum - on Ellis Island, which admitted 17 million immigrants to America from the time it opened in 1892 until its closure in 1954. By 1900, Ellis Island was admitting up to 5,000 people a day and more than 40% of the US population is descended from those who passed through the centre.

Crialese stressed that he was not criticising America for its immigration policies. "I merely wanted to portray the immigrant dream, without entering into any polemics and without passing judgement," he said. The Golden Door, Crialese's third feature, competed in last month's Venice Film Festival where it picked up the Silver Lion for Revelation, an optional jury award which is rarely given out.

Italy last won the Oscar's best foreign language film category in 1999, with Roberto Benigni's Holocaust movie Life Is Beautiful. Benigni also bagged Oscars for best actor and best music.